Review: Anthony and Joseph Paratore Piano Duo
The Sacramento Community Theatre was a full house providing a warm and enthusiastic welcome to Anthony and Joseph Paratore last night. There were many reasons I loved the concert and I am sure the audience could add many more.
The concert was the third program of the Sacramento Community Concerts 2009-2010 season. The two brothers played four music pieces of wide varieties all composed for two pianos, the first half featured Russian composers and the second American.
Both Anthony and Joseph were equally skillful and accomplished pianists with outstanding musicality. Yet, they showed contrasting personalities on stage and it made the concert even more interesting.
Joseph with long and curly hair often played in an expressive and explosive style. Anthony was more reserved with a refined and controlled presence, gave a serious yet thoughtful and gentle performance. It was like having Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss conducting on the same stage. When they spoke giving the audience an introduction, they both were soft-spoken and equally charming.
The program was diverse and clever. Ranging from romantic classical to Jazz and Gershwin, the concert showcased a wide range of Paratore Duo’s repertoire and their mastery as pianists. At the same time, this variety gave all types of audience an opportunity to enjoy the concert and kept audience excited.
The opening piece, Suite No.1 Fantasy, by Rachmaninov was followed by the ever-popular Nutcracker Suite. Something more sophisticated and complex comes after something more endearing. Repeating the pattern in the second half, Points on Jazz by Dave Brubeck, a highly cerebral jazz-art music piece was followed by the energetic and popular Rhapsody in Blue.
Introducing the piece, Anthony said, “There are two arrangements of Nutcracker Suite, one for orchestra, and one for two pianos. We decided to play the piano arrangement today, “ inviting laughter from the audience.
During the first movement of Nutcracker Suite I felt something was missing; where were the dancers, stage lights, Christmas decorations, elaborate costumes, long lines and expensive tickets! The Nutcracker is usually the only ballet performed in December and often is the saving grace to the budgets of ballet companies. Its association with the winter holidays is such a spectacle that I forgot that there is amazing music trapped in the Macy’s window display that the ballet has become.
Tonight’s Nutcracker, however, was a completely refreshing experience. I was able to focus on music without the holiday context. Listening to the beautiful melodies, I was swept away into Tchaikovsky’s fantasy world. He is a master of melody. Who else can compose such beautiful melodic lines? At the same time, this rather simple music does not have significant counterpoint or orchestration. For this reason, I think the piece has more integrity when it is played as a piano duo rather than orchestra.
There was something magical about the duo’s performance. Their parts are precisely coordinated and synchronized despite uneven rhythms and demanding technicality. During the Rachmaninov’s Fantasy, the duo’s musicality was rich with frequent rubato. The effortlessness in their ensemble playing belied the virtuosity required to play this piece.
Anthony and Joseph seemed to know exactly how the other brother is going to play and how to harmonize each other. It makes me wonder if this is something special about being brothers playing together for many years and evoked questions on how they rehearse to achieve this level of precision.
The American second half started with Points on Jazz by Dave Brubeck, also a great jazz pianist himself. This highly sophisticated work combines jazz and classical styles with heavy influences of Bach. Some melancholy and moody ones like Blues to up-beat pieces like Scherzo and A la Turk. It was truly enjoyable with so many different variations and characters in each movement.
The finale was Rhapsody in Blue, unmistakably Gershwin. This is an extremely approachable piece everyone recognizes yet something felt much richer to see and hear it performed live. It is just delightful with high tempo, high pitch, and light-hearted themes. Everyone seemed to enjoy being part of this magical performance.
After the standing ovation, the brothers played two encore pieces, Fire Dance by Manuel de Falla and Finale from Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens. This time, they sat together and played four hands on a piano. This further entertained the audience as they played these technically demanding pieces with extreme acrobatic arm crossings without missing a note. They seem to fully enjoy entertaining the audience.
Two brothers were born in Boston of Italian decent. They have played with many major orchestras and conductors worldwide. It was exciting to hear such dynamic world class pianists play their repertoire in Sacramento.